Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Stockholm - continued

Stockholm from Sodermalm
We decided to a ‘Hop on, Hop off’ Harbour tour which we often find quite interesting, we decided to get off at the island of Södermalm. It is supposed to be the most youthful and bohemian island in central Stockholm. We walked along the coast then up the steps on the granite cliff face. We wandered around and came across Katarina Church which is situated on historic grounds, the Holy Cross Chapel was built on this site in 1320 and there is an association on this site with Stockholm’s Blood Bath of 1520, when many influential people were beheaded, burnt and buried here. A chapel was built in the 1580’s but it soon became too small. A new baroque church was designed in the 17th century. The church was infamous for the witch trials held there in 1675-76.
In 1723 the church as well as 500 houses was burnt in the great fire of the area and much of the church restored. Further restoration took place in the 1950’s but in 1990 it burnt again and so much was destroyed. The building itself was restored but the interior is a blend of old and new which works really well.

Parliament House

In the afternoon we went on a guided tour of Parliament House. For centuries Sweden had a Parliament of the four Estates in society: nobility, clergy, burghers and peasants. In the mid 1800’s this was replaced by a two chamber parliament, whose members were elected by a limited selection of the male population. Universal suffrage did not come into being until 1921. In 1971 the Riksdag (Parliament) switched to a single chamber, made up of 349 democratically elected members. There is proportional representation and members of parliament sit in the chamber according to their constituency and not Party. The Speaker is elected from the members of the chamber then he proposes who he considers for Prime Minister and the members vote on his proposals. The Prime Minister is not necessarily from the majority Party. The Prime Minister then chooses his Cabinet from who he thinks will be best for the job, and are not Parliamentarians. This is the Government, who has to present to Parliament who then votes on various proposals or bills. As a Constitutional monarchy the King is Head of State but he has no other function, he doesn’t sign any documents related to the Government.
Wares that could be sampled at Skansen
Our last full day In Stockholm we spent firstly at the Nordic Museum which proved to be very interesting as it focused on social history. We had an audio guide which we were told would take us about 45 minutes. We took considerably longer. Exhibits included the progression of interiors, fashion, customs etc. We found it very informative. We had lunch at the café there then decided to go to Skansen the outdoor museum a bit like Sovereign Hill in Ballarat. Skansen is the world’s first open air museum is situated on a 30 hectare hill and was created by Artur Hazelius in 1891. The idea was to establish a miniature Sweden, showing how various people lived and worked during different eras. There are around 150 historic buildings from various parts of the country. There are ‘ye olde shoppes’ as well old crafts being demonstrated using techniques from bygone days. Of course all these wares are for sale, but are definitely not cheap. Many would have been nice to have but not suitable for carting half way across the world.

Spire of St. Clara

Our last day in Stockholm was definitely low key; we had ‘museumed’ and ‘churched’ ourselves out. As nothing opens until 10 and it being Sunday so it’s even later and quieter we didn’t rush out. We bought a few bits and pieces and there was just one more church to see which was close to our hotel, St Clara which was part of a convent founded by King Magnus Ladulas in 1280. The convent was dissolve in 1527 during the Reformation. In the late 16th century the church of St Clara was erected by King Johan III on the site of the convent. In the 17th century the tower was added to and was given a new spire. As seemed to be inevitable for many churches and buildings a fire destroyed the steeple, roof, windows and many fittings in 1751.Restoration started immediately and a new roof, steeple, new spire, organ façade and loft constructed. The exterior of the church with its spires looks very impressive and the ceiling decorations inside are tasteful.
We then went back to our hotel to collect our bags to start the next part of our adventure, on to Norway.

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